NIIGATA, Japan Oct 16 An antinuclear candidate
was leading a Japanese regional election on Sunday, media said,
with a win likely to deal a blow to Tokyo Electric Power's
attempts to restart the world's biggest atomic power
Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, a doctor-lawyer who has never held
office and is backed mostly by left-wing parties, was ahead in
the race for governor of Niigata north of Tokyo, an election
dominated by concerns over the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the
Fukushima catastrophe of March 2011.
The Asahi newspaper said its exit polls showed Yoneyama was
ahead by 51 percent to 47 percent for former mayor Tamio Mori,
67, who is backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pronuclear
ruling party. Public broadcaster NHK said its polling showed
Yoneyama with a "slight lead." Kyodo News said it was a tight
Yoneyama promised to continue the policy of the outgoing
governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, as the
company supplying about a third of Japan's electricity is known,
to restart the plant.
Reviving the seven-reactor giant, with capacity of 8
gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was brought low
by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated
admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world's
worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Tepco is vital to Abe's energy policy, which relies on
rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30 percent of
the nation's needs.
(Reporting by Kentaro Hamada; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick;
Editing by Clarence Fernandez and William Mallard)